Call me Russ L

Abacussing vs Spotted Dogbeth

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 9 July, 2007

I had chance to make one post on The Stirrer’s message board before I was suspended (for the heinous crime of trying to change the email address I registered with, it seems. No, me neither). I will show admirable restraint and not make any needling little comments like “That’s probably a blessing, really.” No. You won’t catch me saying anything like that at all.

Said post was on the subject of The Spotted Dog pub (which I’ve never been to, incidentally. I’d like to at some point soon, though, as a gesture of support as much as anything else) furore. This establishment has, apparently, been having gigs in its beergarden for ever and ever and ever (give or take a fifteen minute margin of error). A block of posh flats (The Abacus Building) was recently built overlooking said garden, seemingly without any planning forethought being given to questions of noise. The inevitable has happened, complaints were received, and the council apparently has its hands tied and is forced to take action. This sounds remarkably similar to what happened to The Fiddle And Bone near the NIA. Inevitable enough, in that I’m sure everyone was just as certain as I was that the redevelopment of Digbeth (an aside – the name ‘Eastside’ makes me want to puke up a f’ing lung) would amount to little more than gentrification, but still very sad.

A thread on The Stirrer’s board addresses this. The main voice (the only voice bar one post, at the time of writing) presenting any sort of argument against The Spotted Dog is one Martin Mullaney, councillor for Moseley & Kings Heath. His insistence that the debate must be framed in terms of “Irrespective of who came first, do you not consider it unreasonable to have music late at night in a beergarden near residential accomodation?” is frustrating. The debate does need a focus to stop it turning into the sprawling vague thing that, well, it already has, but that’s far from the only way that it could be looked at. “In what mad version of the world can you move into an area and expect it to change to suit you?” strikes me as a completely pertinent question. I also think that an important side question (which I asked on there, but was ignored) is “Are such events to be allowed at all, anywhere?” If this is the precedent then we have a de facto ban, albeit a ‘sleeper’ that might not instantly come into action in every circumstance.

The councel for The Council posits that Digbeth is a dump at present, and that developments like this are necessary. It’s strange that he continually uses the word ‘soulless’ when the alternative he initially kept positing was Brindley Place (ah come on now. I like Brindley Place, but who would call it soulful?), but there we are.

Give the man his due, though – in the interest of sportsmanship and acknowledging that he might be wrong, he went on a crawl around Digbeth on Friday evening and wrote of what he found. Even if you’re not in the slightest bit interested in the question at hand, this is a very good article (it’s on the main Stirrer site, so be prepared to have your browser resized for no obvious reason other than to wind you up), full of information about the detail and history of the pubs under discussion. It’s a great read and I really would recommend it. I’m having the first inkling of the thought of doing my own version, although I’d probably be focussing on very different things.

Digbeth, apparently, was near empty. While I do find that slightly hard to believe (I’m not suggesting he’s making anything up, just that Digbeth High Street isn’t usually like that on a Friday evening. The backstreets are, I’ll give you that), there’s a fairly obvious problem with his methodology regarding this. What Mullaney has either not realised or conveniently ignored is that for many people Digbeth is a clubbing corner more so than pubbing place. Your old Irish fellas probably feel differently, but for a lot of young ‘uns this is a fact. He left at ten past nine to go and play over his own end, and thus missed the crowds of people that Air/The Barfly/The Med Bar would have brought in. I can assure you there would have been a lot.

The thought occurs that a lack of understanding of this sort of culture informs many of his opinions.

(As an aside – are the pubs in Digbeth suffering? He keeps asserting that they are, but I have no idea whether or not it’s the case.)


8 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on 9 July, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Abacussing vs Spotted Dogbeth

    Russ L on the Spotted Dog – Digbeth entertainmant debate.

  2. […] appreciator of loud music Russ L overviews the whole thing and throws in his couple of […]

  3. Ben said, on 9 July, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Never been to the Spotted Dog myself either, but you’re quite right in pointing out how ridiculous it is that the pre-existing environment should be forcibly altered to suit those who move in. In my experience, Digbeth certainly isn’t dead and I’ve always been more of a pub-goer than a club-goer down there.

  4. John said, on 9 July, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Digbeth’s good for us Real Ale lovers as well, slighlty disappointed not to see a reference to the Anchor in Martin Mullaney’s article. There’s a pub that’s always busy.

  5. Dead Kenny said, on 9 July, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Have been to The Spotted Dog twice, once for a pre-club beer or three, the second time to watch the scintillating StrangeTime play, so feel I’m well placed to give an informed opinion on this matter.

    Erm…apart from the fact I haven’t really got one…

    Other than it seemed a decent, unpretentious boozer, the area for bands to play indoors is tiny and cramped so the beer garden in the summer seems a reasponable solution, and in the current lefgislation-heavy climate any half-decent live music venue should be treated with reverence normally accorded to historical artefacts.

  6. Ben said, on 10 July, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    John: Yep, Digbeth is hardly dead if the Anchor is anything to go by. One of my very favourite pubs anywhere, and excellent for real ale.

  7. Russ L said, on 10 July, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    I’ve never been to The Anchor, either. I should compile a “To visit” list.

    Edit: The Birmingham Alive Toilet rankings recently linked on Brumblog adjudges the conveniences there to be “OK – but could be better, there are a lot worse in Digbeth, but beer is excellent.”

    So there y’go.

  8. John said, on 11 July, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    The beer is indeed excellent, toilets a little cramped, but probably a price worth paying for their fine real ale. The pub itse;f is not to dissimilar from the White Swan opposite, except not quite as ornate.


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